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Georgia linebacker D’Andre Walker (15) is poised for a breakout season in 2018.

5 Georgia defenders poised to break out in 2018

Cy Brown

Welcome to Good Day, UGA, your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more.

5 Georgia defenders poised for a breakout season

Georgia loses seven defensive starters from last season, a fact that is cause for some concern. How much concern, however, remains to be seen.

Although there’s plenty of youth and inexperience on Georgia’s 2018 defense, there’s also a wealth of talent. The Bulldogs have plenty of players capable of stepping up and keeping the defense as good as it expects to be.

Here are five players ready to make a difference:

  • Monty Rice, inside linebacker: Rice was quietly one of the most impressive freshmen on the team last season. He wasn’t as quiet at G-Day, where he racked up a game-leading 14 tackles. Roquan Smith was the team’s leading tackler the last two years, so now someone else has to claim that mantle. My money’s on Rice.
  • Richard LeCounte III, free safety: Kirby Smart stayed on top of LeCounte all spring. The good news is it means Smart expects a lot from the rising sophomore. The better news is that LeCounte responded with a stellar G-Day performance, picking off Jake Fromm once and nearly snagging another.
  • D’Andre Walker, outside linebacker: Somehow, despite being second on the team in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (13.5), Walker flew under the radar last season. But with the departures of Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy freeing up a lot of snaps at outside linebacker, the rising senior has a chance to take it to the next level and become Georgia’s pass-rusher extraordinaire.
  • Julian Rochester, nose tackle: John Atkins was a solid presence at nose for years, but his role — eat blocks and open lanes — was limited. Rochester is significantly more athletic than Atkins as well as a more capable rusher. Rochester will provide Georgia with a more attacking and explosive presence in the center of the defensive than it’s had in some time.
  • Brenton Cox, outside linebacker/defensive end: Maybe it’s a hunch — or maybe it’s the fact that he was a 5-star recruit and ranked 23rd overall in his class — but I think Cox is poised for an outstanding freshman year. He’s uber talented, has a build ready-made for the SEC and the versatility to play multiple positions. There’s a strong sense he’ll end 2018 as a major factor on the defense and the best freshman on the team.

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Andy Johnson, DGD

Former Georgia quarterback and Athens native Andy Johnson has died after a long illness. He was 65.

Johnson played football and baseball at Georgia from 1971-73 before going on to a nine-year NFL career as a running back for the New England Patriots. A two-sport star as well as a versatile player on the gridiron, Johnson’s widely considered one of the greatest athletes in UGA sports history.

List-O-Mania

With six players selected, including three in the first round, Georgia had an excellent 2018 NFL Draft. There’s a good chance the Bulldogs will produce another impressive draft class next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.

In a recent post for NFL.com, Chase Goodbread ranked Georgia No. 5 on his list of seven college football teams that could be next to dominate NFL draft.

[Jake] Fromm’s ascension as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks is emblematic of how quickly the quarterback landscape can change in college football. At the beginning of last season, Jacob Eason was considered the Bulldogs’ star of the future at the position. By season’s end, Fromm had UGA playing for a national title and Eason subsequently transferred to Washington. Those that watched Georgia closely last year know that despite the draft losses of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, the running back position remains in good hands with [D’Andre] Swift, who averaged a whopping 7.6 yards per carry last year on 81 rushes. As true sophomores, Swift and Fromm won’t be draft eligible in 2019, so Georgia’s next chance for draft dominance might be 2020. Fromm has a pair of quality receiving targets in [Terry] Godwin and [Riley] Ridley, the younger brother of Atlanta Falcons first-round pick Calvin Ridley.

Odds & Ends

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